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Outernet delivers courseware and learning resources to students and teachers

Outernet delivers dynamically updated educational resources to support students and teachers in refugee communities anywhere on Earth.

Photo of Rachel Feinberg

Written by

EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Outernet delivers digital information to places where the Internet cannot reach. We broadcast digital content from satellites to the entire planet, like a global radio station that sends files instead of music. This free-to-receive broadcast is accessible to everyone, independent of income, infrastructure, or geography; all that is required for access is a receiver and a Wi-Fi device. Content is viewed in a device's browser and can be downloaded for future use. We can deliver this content in any format (i.e. text, audio, video), and in multiple languages. Because Outernet is a global service that requires no terrestrial infrastructure, Outernet receivers can be deployed quickly and easily to transform any location into a hub of learning, whether it is a permanent school, a temporary structure, or tent. Once a receiver is available, users never pay to access the data. Outernet ensures that students in refugee communities can access the most up-to-date learning tools, and teachers have resources. Outernet can deliver third party content, so it is also a tool for organizations who are restricted in their ability to deliver content to refugees without internet connectivity.

WHO BENEFITS?

The benefit of Outernet is that it can be used by anyone, anyplace on Earth. - Students benefit from access to ample, up-to-date learning resources and tools. - Overworked teachers benefit from teaching resources. - Creators of courseware or learning tools can distribute them directly to refugees without the constraints of an Internet connection or traveling directly to a site.

PROTOTYPE

We are testing our Pillar receivers in multiple locations and environments, including community learning centers, schools, and health centers. We are in the process of developing Outernet kiosks, and we are working with UNICEF to install Outernet for victims of the Earthquakes in Nepal. This fall our mobile receiver, Lantern, will make Outernet mobile and solar-powered. Currently, Deutsche Welle is a partner that is already pushing information over Outernet. IREX is a refugee camp implementation partner. In these situations, we are gathering feedback on content preferences and suggestions from students and teachers, and feedback on user interface and overall usability. We will continue testing in different refugee locations to learn more about how specific needs vary by area, and hope we can help build the capacities of other organizations at work in these areas.

SKILL SHARE (optional)

We are creating a new space for learning and collaboration for those who work in offline locations. Once an Outernet receiver is in place, sending digital content to the most difficult-to-reach location as simple as the click of a mouse. The result is that all students can have access to and benefit from many of the educational innovations created within this OpenIdeo challenge. Our team thrives on advice and feedback, and we hope to advance the work of others through strong partnerships.

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

Outernet is based in Chicago, but we have team members dispersed across the globe.

IS THIS AN IDEA THAT YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION WOULD LIKE TO TAKE FORWARD?

  • Yes, and I am looking for a partner working with refugee communities to implement this idea.

12 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Andy E. Williams
Team

Kudos for such a robust stand-alone solution.

Photo of Rachel Feinberg
Team

Hi Andy,

Thanks Andy, but actually Outernet is even better with collaboration with others. We provide a basic level of education and information, but it is also a platform for others to build upon. Think of it as a space for collaboration, and a means of distributing information to people without Internet access

Thanks!
Rachel

Photo of Alamgir Khan
Team

Hi Rachel,

I am Alamgir Khan part of PISE, and I would like you to have a look at our project (https://openideo.com/challenge/refugee-education/ideas/tele-education-center) , we are currently the only student body organization in Pakistan to have access to refugee camps. We have already carried out numerous projects in the camps and I would suggest you to visit our Facebook page for greater details on our projects (link in our IDEA project page).

Under the TEC project we are planning to develop an online platform (a central website) through which we will be able to link our various TECs located across country or even across continents. The platform will be used by volunteers to upload learning content and conduct session with refugees according to the dedicated schedules.
Most of the Refugee camps are in locations where access to Internet is difficult and I see Outernet as a wonderful solution to this problem. I am not fully aware how the Outernet works but if we can use the technology to connect the TECs to Internet it will be of great aid.

I will be waiting to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Alamgir Khan,
Director PISE

Photo of Rachel Feinberg
Team

Hi Alamgir,

I am very inspired by your idea! I definitely see where we can help with you, and I would love to explore where our capabilities can support your idea. Based on what I see in your Idea and your Facebook page, most content from the online platform could be packaged and delivered via Outernet (including, but not limited to, the digital libraries). We can truly design something revolutionary if we slight adjustments to the idea - for example, recorded lessons instead of live Skype sessions, followed by in-class discussion based on guidelines (text files) and worksheets that are delivered alongside the recorded lessons. This could be a very scaleable idea with Outernet.

Please let me know your thoughts!
Rachel

Photo of Alamgir Khan
Team

Hi Rachel,

Thank you for your kind words, Yes definitely collaboration is the pathway to success. One of our core objectives is to conduct online classes, because an online class can have a stronger impact since the teacher has the freedom to improvise the lesson according to the environment and this is an element which i feel lacks in recorded sessions.
Having said that, we can however, use outernet as a solution for areas where online classes may not be possible, and as you mentioned use it to deliver recorded session. Our team will be in touch with your project constantly, I see great potential in the application and usage of Outernet.

Looking forward for further collaboration.

Alamgir.

Photo of Kashif Zahid
Team

Hi Rachel,

I would be interested in understanding how outernet works because if the requirement is to have a wifi device, wouldn't it mean Internet is a pre-req to receive the service or I am missing something?

Appreciate if you can elaborate.

Thanks.
Kashif

Photo of Rachel Feinberg
Team

Thanks for your question, Kashif!

The device needs WiFi connectivity capabilities, but not the connection itself. Our devices create their own WiFi hotspot to allow users to connect to the broadcasted content saved on the devices internal storage, so no Internet is required for use at any step of the process.

I hope this helps to answer your question!
Rachel

Photo of Kashif Zahid
Team

Hi Rachel,

Thanks for the response and elaboration. So, there will some sort of hub at home or in a small area where data will be downloaded through satellite or loaded locally while it will broadcast content by establishing its own wifi network, correct?

Would you mind sharing details on such devices. I am quite interested in this concept.

Thanks.
Kashif

Photo of Rachel Feinberg
Team

Hi Kashif,

Yes, the devices do act like a kind of hub. Outernet requires an antenna to receive the signal and our firmware to decode it into viewable content. It is an unencrypted signal, so right now you can point a dish at the satellites and build your own receiver using our instructions, or you can use one of our devices. There's Pillar (currently in testing, and available soon), and Lantern (in development and available on IndieGoGo: http://igg.me/at/outernet/). With this equipment in place, you receive a one-way stream of content that is saved on the local device, which can then be viewed via its local WiFi network (range similar to a home WiFi access point).

I read your idea contribution and I think it's great. Outernet could expand the same platform you are envisioning to reach areas without Internet.

Thanks,
Rachel

Photo of Kashif Zahid
Team

Hi Rachel,

Thanks for the information and explanation. I looked up the campaign and now I understand better how it works. It surely can help us expand our reach to areas where connectivity will be an issue. I am so much interested in understanding, how after getting a lantern, we can add our content into it.

Also, is it possible to have a short call so we can discuss more on how we can leverage this idea.

Thanks.
Kashif

Photo of Rachel Feinberg
Team

Hi Kashif,

Yes, let's chat. Are you available tomorrow (Friday)?

Thanks,
Rachel

Photo of Kashif Zahid
Team

Yes, I am available Friday afternoon. You can send me the contact details at skashif.riaz@gmail.com and I'll arrange for the call.

Cheers,
Kashif